We were able to play through an entire competitive race in the upcoming LittleBigPlanet Karting (LBPK) at E3, placing first (of course) and winning a small Sackboy plush identical to those found in the Collector’s Edition of LBP2. The demo started off with everyone in a kind of practice mode where you could zoom about the track getting used to the controls while all of the other players connected. I mixed up my L1 and R1 and ended up in the bottom of the track — a place where you would normally fall and just be respawned onto the track, but since it was practice mode I was allowed to drive around there. This is when I ran into the only bugs I experienced with LBPK, as I accidentally bumped into a giant soda can and was immediately swallowed into it while my screen glitched out (you can check it out in the video of our time with the game above). This area obviously wasn’t meant to be raced upon, I guess they should have just turned on the spawn warping in practice mode too. The only other glitch I encountered was a hallway that I went down on every lap and always instantly died for no apparent reason, you respawn quickly when this happens by jumping out of one of the classic LBP spawn gates in the ground (plus I ended up winning), so it wasn’t as big of a hindrance as it might have been.
I was so busy concentrating on winning the race that I never figured out which button allows you to drift around corners, but I was otherwise in command of the fairly standard kart-racing controls in LBPK. The race we played covered three laps around a winding track with pleasant if somewhat pedestrian LBP style. Interesting spins on the classic kart-racing formula introduced in this LBPK demo included: using the LBP grappling hook to go across large expanses, the ability to melee nearby drivers, and a “speed-up” item that overlays a VHS-like fast-forwarding effect while catching you up. Pretty much every other item I encountered had a direct equivalent in most other kart-racing games including the standard blue/green/red shell Mario Kart equivalents and standard speed boost items. Speaking of items, item-balance felt quite a bit off during my play session with the game, and this imbalance is one of the main things I have to thank for my racing victory. The items are available in standard places like in many kart games (Mario Kart, Joy Ride), but unlike those two games, you can see which item you’re going to get before you get it (like in Blur) instead of activating a roulette. These pre-defined item locations make it impossible for the developers to balance the items, like giving speed boosts and blue shell equivalents only to those further back, and make it so that people in third (as I was) can get blue shell equivalents (as I did) and essentially destroy the people right in front of them to steal the lead. Opting for the roulette-like random item assignments would go a long way to making LBPK feel more fair and balanced than it does in its current state.
Overall, I had not a bad time with LBPK, but just the racing mode alone can’t really hold a candle in its current form even to more generic kart racers like Joy Ride Turbo. Luckily for everyone, there are a ton of other modes announced for the game including a Battle Mode, Waypoint Races, Treasure Hunts, Score Attacks and more in addition to the adoption of the traditional LBP motto “Play, Create, Share” allowing players to customize/share their characters, weapons, and levels. Even if the racing mode were to be included in the final game in its current form, most gamers will probably be to busy fooling around on custom tracks with custom weapons/karts to notice anyways. With so much content announced for the game and a while before its release, things are overall looking positive for the future of LBPK.